We did this last year and the year before and I was hoping we could focus on some of the positive aspects of the players on the roster this year. The idea is based on the fact that the roster changes a little bit every year and we can assume with players retiring or coming to the end of their contracts or being moved in trades or not panning out and moving on, that in three years the roster will look significantly different. So what six players from this year's roster do you want to see on the roster when the 2012-13 season opens?
The three pillars are still solid in my mind. I think the core is here for an exciting run at a championship. I have read and listened to the angst over Oden's injuries, LA's softness, and Roy's selfishness. I have thrown my two cents in on trade talks here and there and I have watched games over again just to try to understand some of the frustration over style of play, LA's defense and rebounding or whether Roy should have passed the ball in the last minute of a game. But my conclusion is that the core is solid.
Read more after the jump and chime in...
Oden's injuries are a bit of a concern but I don't see any reason why you don't take a chance on what he has shown over the past two seasons. He can be a force on the boards and on the defensive end and I see him becoming, at the very least, a strong presence in the post and at best a dominating one. I will live with the risk at this point in the hopes that the reward will come.
I do not have a problem with LA right now. He could be a bigger presence inside and I would love for him to do what he does in the first and the third in the last 6 minutes of the game but I think he is making a bigger impact on this team than he is getting credit for this year. The Blazers pretty much run the offense through him most of the time. He is slowing down, recognizing where double teams are coming from, and making good passes. He will benefit greatly from Oden being on the floor. He will be able to take advantage of his athleticism and speed instead of having to carry the load on the inside every night. He is the perfect fit for the defense that Nate likes to run. I am still all in with Aldridge in spite of some wavering from some big names out there...Dave?
Roy is not going anywhere. Do I need to say more about him?
The rest from which to choose: Webster, Miller, Bayless, Outlaw, Rudy, Pendergraph, Cunningham, Batum, Howard, Przybilla, Blake, and Mills.
With three spots left, the choices are clear to me:
Batum does now what I have been waiting to see Webster and Outlaw do for the last 4 years. They have definitely grown as players and I love the heart with which they play but Batum just gets it. He has to be part of the long term plans. I will not be upset if one of those guys stays, if that is even possible with salaries and minutes issues, but if Batum goes to make room for them, I will not be happy.
If Rudy can accept the role of sixth man, I have him staying. I like what Nate is doing with him by getting the ball into his hands and having him run the offense. It will mean he can be on the floor with Roy or my next choice to stay... Bayless. Rudy is going to always be an energy guy that will fire up the crowd and his teammates. His 3 point shooting, his court vision, and his anticipation on defense are all excellent and much needed by this team.
As I said above, Bayless rounds out my six current Blazers I want to see still putting on the red throwbacks to start the 2012 season. His play this year has convinced me that he can not only be explosive and get to the rack but that he will keep figuring out how to get the ball to his teammates where they can score and play solid defense without being overly aggressive, fouling a lot and getting out of position. He isn't going to average 8-10 assists but with a back court mate who averages 5 assists a game, it won't matter much.
So Oden, Aldridge, Roy, Batum, Bayless, and Rudy are the guys I want to see on this roster for a long time to come. I like the rest and would love to see Cunningham, Przybilla, and Webster come along for the ride. But I see those guys developing into team that will outrebound, work hard and together on defense, and have enough tools on offense to score in an uptempo or grind it out game. I am excited for the future of this team and they may even have enough going for them to surprise a lot of people this year.
My main point with this post isn't to say that the rest of the team should be traded or to pit players against each other but to try to think long-term instead of getting so hung up on what player X did or did not do in this or that game. It is also to say that I think the future of this team is still on track and moving in an upward trajectory towards championship contender. Five years ago, most Blazer fans would have given up at least one limb to see a team like this run out onto the Rose Garden floor 41 games a year, plus playoffs. I love watching this team and these are the six guys, if I can only choose six, I want to keep watching for a long time.